Battle of the Chesapeake

Victory in the Yorktown siege in October 1781 was possible only because a French fleet led by Admiral François Joseph Paul de Grasse had defeated a British fleet a month earlier in the Battle of the Chesapeake, illustrated here. This prevented Charles Cornwallis from being evacuated from Yorktown by sea. De Grasse’s triumph resulted from France’s dedication to rebuilding its navy after the Seven Years’ War.

The Battle of the Chesapeake, September 5, 1781

The Battle of the Chesapeake, September 5, 1781

Courtesy of Library of Congress

Painting of the 1781 Battle of the Chesapeake, 1962

Painting of the 1781 Battle of the Chesapeake, 1962

Courtesy of U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C., U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command

Section view of the Ville de Paris, 1783

Section view of the Ville de Paris, 1783

Courtesy of Smithsonian Libraries

Model of the Ville de Paris

Model of the Ville de Paris

Admiral François Joseph Paul De Grasse’s flagship, the Ville de Paris, was the pride of his fleet and among the best French ships of the line. It was a powerful three-decker armed with 104 guns. Less than a year after Yorktown victory, however, the British captured both de Grasse and his flagship in the Battle of the Saintes in the Caribbean.